Soon we will have to say we are not mother and daughter.

Our world is very heteronormative. It is not the world’s fault.

Heterosexuality IS the norm, and a spin off of such heterosexuality is parenthood.

However, what this means is that people do not think outside of the box of heterosexual parenthood. Thus far, this has not caused my partner and me too many problems, and when people have mistaken the nature of our relationship (both before and after children), we have generally gone along with it to save the blushes of the other person. 

On occasions, we have HAD to correct someone, because the relationship to that person means it will be necessary for them to know we are partners (for example, a hospital consultant). This often results in awkwardness from the person who made the mistake, as we assure them it is fine and that we do not think they are homophobic because they didn’t guess (a common reaction). 

Most recently, my partner was mistaken for my mother by someone who worked for a large rail company. Helpfully, the lady concerned was trying to seat our family so we were all together. She told me she had found my mother a place and I could go and join her and my children. Only my mother wasn’t with us, my partner was. I smiled, thanked her and went to join the others.

My partner is often mistaken for my mother, although there are just 13 years between us. She is also often thought to be a lot younger than her 49 years. Now, either I must look exceptionally youthful (my preferred explanation), or people see the closeness of our relationship and assume we are mother and daughter (my partner’s preferred explanation).

Whatever the reasoning behind people’s errors, we now have to start correcting them when our children are with us.

People often ask ‘when did you come out?’. Of course, they mean for the first time – not realising it is an ongoing process, and one which sometimes requires some iron gut and fortitude. And being in a same-sex parenting set-up means coming out all the more often – unless one of us is out alone with the children, in which case we are automatically assumed to be heterosexual. However, if I am out with my son and I am asked by a stranger about my husband, or my son is asked about Daddy, I can no longer invent a polite response. I will have to be brave and tell the truth.

Why must we be more direct? Simply because our children need to know that we are not ashamed of our family, and nor should they be. We will not tell untruths about it to save the embarrassment of others and awkward silences. 

Our son currently yells ‘Mummy [first name]’ across any park or shopping centre without a care in the world, totally unaware that people out there would kill us without a moment’s hesitation, just for being who we are. It is adorable to see, but I am ashamed that we both worry that a two-year-old innocently yelling his parent’s name will provoke an adverse reaction in someone.

I would dearly love our children to grow up without people being cruel about our family, just because our children have two mums. I know that this is unlikely, but we will not endorse that cruelty and will hold our heads high. 

I am proud that my son was the snatcher. But I didn’t tell you that.

Dear Grandmother of Small Girl,

We had a nice time this morning at the toddler group, didn’t we? The children in our care gaily dancing and prancing with scarves and maracas and happy grins. We even enjoyed it when the parachute came out and plastic balls went flying all over the place, which we then had to pick up.

We enjoyed it so much that we hadn’t really noticed each other until then. We were probably so engrossed in the respective charms of our small charges.

However there was then ‘an incident’, wasn’t there?

As the music merrily played with the cheery song about clearing up, my son saw your grandaughter with lots of plastic balls. She wasn’t really doing anything with them. This would be fine under normal circumstances, but you see we had all been instructed to clear up the balls and put them in the basket. Only your granddaughter wasn’t doing this, and my son saw she wasn’t. 

He went up to her and tried to take one of the balls from her so he could clear it away. It is fair to say she was not keen to relinquish the ball but he took it anyway. Yes, he snatched it.

He was helping to clear away, you see. 

He did not bank on what happened next – you towering over him and shouting at him to give it back, what a horrible thing to do etc. etc. With a really nasty expression on your stranger’s face. By good fortune, the cheery tune played on, but this meant you had to be even LOUDER, so you couldn’t hear his own mother, three feet away, trying to resolve the situation.

My son just stood looking confused, put away the balls he had, and you returned to your friends and relations to spend the next few minutes being horrible about him, and no doubt me. I only caught some of what you said. And I rose to the bait.

”Boys are rough’, you say? Yes, they are. But this one is two years old. I have told him off and I have dealt with it, okay?’.

No, actually, not okay. Because what I should have said was this…

”Boys are rough, you say? Yes, sometimes they are. So can girls be. My son is sometimes rough, I appreciate that, but he is also the sweetest and most sensitive child I know, who will put his arm around a shy or hurt child and help them to play, who tries to ‘fix’ my pelvis with a screwdriver when it hurts too much to play with him, and who tries his best to help others. He was not ‘rough’ with your granddaughter, he was trying to help. Try looking at things through a child’s eyes before you tell them off. And if at all possible, seek out the parent and do not tell off another child. If you really must intervene, do not tower over them and shout’.

But I didn’t say that. Nor did I properly tell him off if I am honest. It was more of a bit of a talk. 

And guess what? After your little intervention, I am sorry to say, I waded in when he was trying to right a wrong. A boy broke something, my son took it from the boy. Did I let him keep it? To prevent further damage? No, I am ashamed to say I didn’t, because I felt under the judging eyes of you and your entourage. I told my son to hand it back and I said we should leave. I was afraid it would look like he was snatching again. Which he was, but to stop a boy damaging something further. So, I am ashamed of my parenting, and my son is probably very confused now.

Grandmother of Small Girl, I am sure your granddaughter will never set a foot wrong, but should she do so, I hope she does not have an encounter such as my son’s with you today.

I will see you next week. Sadly.

Yours,

Mother of Small Boy (who you no doubt blame anyway).

My baby is not morbidly obese. She is baby-shaped.

It is tragic that with our obsession with weight issues, even babies are now targeted.

I have been fortunate to have two babies. Neither has been sparrow-like. 

My daughter had one of those Nirvana-style underwater photos done at around three months and it looked like her hands had been stuck onto her wrists, such was the respective podginess of her hands and forearms. Her cheeks would be the envy of every hamster in the land and her bottom has enough cellulite to cause a Marie Claire reader to reach for some miracle-inducing Clarins product.

But you know what? I am pretty sure she is just ‘healthy baby’ shape. That is not to say that babies who are more like ballerinas than All Blacks players are not healthy, just that there is really no need for people to comment in a derogatory way about my baby’s weight. Yes, mother-in-law, I mean you in particular, but you are not alone (you are just the worst offender).

People make remarks like ‘Oh don’t worry-she’ll grow into herself’. Apart from making even less sense than George Bush, did I ever say I was worried? No. Do I have reason to be worried? No.

My son was a similar shape. He is now an (overly?!) active, lean and strong toddler. When he was admitted to hospital with Rotavirus as a baby, it was perhaps his reserves that kept him off a drip. Test results etc. indicated he should be on one, but because of how he presented, he was kept off. Thankfully. He did lose a lot of weight, and he lost his deliciously squidgy baby thighs. But they came back. They are no longer there and I miss them.

A friend of mine who has a very slender baby says she worries if ever he should become very ill, as he doesn’t have much in the way of ‘reserves’. I hadn’t thought about this. I guess I have never needed to for my own childen, but I see her point.

They say it is impossible to overfeed a breastfed baby and, for once (no doubt because it suits), I shall pat ‘them’ on the back. Whoever they are.

To those who think it is appropriate to comment on my baby’s size, what is your solution? Should I ensure she does more exercise, even though she cannot crawl? Should I change her breastmilk to semi-skimmed?

How about this – you leave her to be a baby. You leave her to grow into a child. And when she does, you will NOT give her a weight-related complex, whatever shape she turns out to be. To me, she is just perfect. And so should she be to you.

Do they have a male role model?

No. My children live in a box.

Please do not worry, Lady on the Train, they have plenty – their uncles, their grandfathers, their neighbours, their friends’ fathers, and the idiots with guns on the news every evening. Although I prefer the former to the latter.

Besides, Lady on the Train, I rather think it depends on how you raise your children. If you are of the view that men should behave in a certain way and women in another, then yes, it is important that they should have someone to show them how to ‘behave like a man’.

If, on the other hand, you think that it is merely important to raise your child as an individual, with their own personal strengths and weaknesses, to be a good and loving human being, then what difference does a male role model make exactly? We subscribe to the second philosophy.

But do not worry, Lady on the Train, you are in good company. My own mother thinks that the reason that my son has such a good bond with her husband and son is because ‘he likes men’. Nothing to do with him liking them as people, and conveniently ignoring all the women he adores.

Every time my son engages with a male waiter, my mother engages her amateur psychologist eyebrow.

But my mother has never referred to my family as part of The Fallen. That, Lady on the Train, was a step too far.

They are still not sleeping through, they are not ‘good’ and I don’t care. So there.

I cannot recall how many times I have been asked whether one of my children is sleeping through.

Once my son hit the 18mthsish mark, people stopped asking. It was assumed he had. However, he has achieved gold standard, erm, once?, in nearly three years.

Now we have a 5mth old daughter, and the question has started again. 

The pattern has been the same for each child. I have explained that no, they are not sleeping through, that no, I don’t know how many times they are waking in the night and yes, they are often given milk when they do wake.

Why is this such a Badge of Parent Honour? More’s to the point, why does anyone actually care?

My children are happy, and if they want a drink in the night, I will give it to them – whether that is by rolling over and feeding the baby lying next to me in bed, or by getting up to respond to my toddler’s request for milk.

Why do others feel the need to make people feel like failures? ‘Well, they should be sleeping through by now’. Really? Says who? And what if they’re not? Will they implode?.

(Oh, how I love the word ‘implode’. Implooooode).

For me, there is probably only one even more annoying question, asked of me by all and sundry, from strangers in the supermarket to friends who really should know better…

‘Is he/she good?’. No. My child is pure evil with a penchant for bank robbery.

People have given me strange looks when I have come up with this or some similar retort. My partner now dreads the question, as she often feels obliged to explain and translate whilst I do my best wasp-chewing face.

Sometimes I will enter into a wannabe academic discussion about whether a two-week old baby has the cognitive skill and capacity to misbehave. Then I tend to lose the questioner altogether to the tinned veg aisle or somewhere.

I shout after them, as they peruse the sweetcorn..

‘Oh, sorry. You meant ‘Is my child so quiet we don’t notice him/her?’. No, thankfully not. Green Giant is on special offer by the way’.

 

I need to learn more grace. 

Why my toddler is like a dog…

His nose seems permanently wet.

He can jump on and off the seemingly impossible.

He likes long walks.

He likes catching balls.

He is not adverse to using the carpet as a loo.

He gets overly excited when he sees people he likes.

Given half the chance, he will put his head out of the car window.

He makes a beeline for puddles.

He doesn’t like having his teeth brushed.

He enjoys swimming.

He is a bit fussy with his food.

He can do that puppy dog eye thing to get what he wants.

He doesn’t mind getting filthy.

He hates being on reins.

He has really cute ears.

He has a fondness for sticks.

If he sees something he wants, nothing will make him ‘heel’.

His energy knows no limits.

He likes climbing on furniture.

He is loud at inappropriate times.

Old ladies pat him in the street.

He will run off and sometimes come back if called, sometimes not.

He chases cats.

He eats things he shouldn’t, like paper.

I’m not a big fan of dogs, but I adore my toddler.

Do they have a male role model?

No. My children live in a box.

Please do not worry, Lady on the Train, they have plenty – their uncles, their grandfathers, their neighbours, their friends’ fathers, and the idiots with guns on the news every evening. Although I prefer the former to the latter. 

Besides, Lady on the Train, I rather think it depends on how you raise your children. If you are of the view that men should behave in a certain way and women in another, then yes, it is important that they should have someone to show them how to ‘behave like a man’.

If, on the other hand, you think that it is merely important to raise your child as an individual, with their own personal strengths and weaknesses, to be a good and loving human being, then what difference does a male role model make exactly?

We subscribe to the second philosophy.

But do not worry, Lady on the Train, you are in good company. My own mother thinks that the reason that my son has such a good bonds with her husband and son is because ‘he likes men’. Nothing to do with him liking them as people, and conveniently ignoring all the women he adores. Every time my son engages with a male waiter, my mother engages her amateur psychologist eyebrow.

But my mother has never referred to my family as part of The Fallen. She has never said we were contrary to God’s plan. That, Lady on the Train, was a step too far. But we soon got to Euston.